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Eye-tracking study sees high impact formats outperform standard display

High impact digital advertising formats capture and retain user attention far more effectively than their standard counterparts, according to new research from Adnami and Lumen Research.

The joint study, conducted in the UK and Nordic markets, leveraged a fully consented eye-tracking panel to measure the impact on attention and brand lift of high impact versus standard display advertising. It revealed that high impact formats outperform standard formats by almost any metric.

Among the findings:

  • On average, and across the board, high impact formats are typically viewed for between 2x and 4x as long as virtually any other ad unit; 
  • Attention – which is far greater for high impact formats than for standard display units – is directly linked to prompted and unprompted brand recall
  • Topscroll, the best-performing Adnami ad unit, is viewed for 7x longer than the average standard display unit on desktop and more than twice the average display unit on mobile
  • Creative plays a pivotal role in maximising the effectiveness of campaigns; with bold, simple messages hitting the hardest 

Also under the microscope were the impact of attention on brand recall and the potential drivers of attention, including size, placement, creative and format.

High impact and standard formats are clearly differentiated by the amount of time they are looked at by an average user (defined as attention), the study shows, with high impact formats such as scrollers and skins significantly outperforming standard display. 

The best-performing format was the desktop Topscroll, delivering on average 5,476 seconds of attention per 1,000 impressions delivered. Some results showed results up to 72x higher than the standard display format. 

Meanwhile, Skins delivered 2,181 seconds of attention per 1,000 impressions, or 10x more attention than a 320×250 banner, while desktop Midscrolls delivered 10.6x more attention compared to a 320×250 banner. 

The study also found that Topscroll ads are viewed for 7x longer than the average standard desktop display unit and more than twice the average mobile display unit, while all Adnami formats are viewed, on average, for between approximately two and four times as long as any other ad unit.

Based on Lumen’s own attention metric, Topscroll outperforms all other formats by a factor of five on desktop and by between two and four on mobile. And the study confirms that attention, in turn, is directly linked to brand recall – which keeps rising the more attention an ad receives.

Adnami’s CEO Simon Kvist Gaulshøj commented: “As we continue on our journey to improve media technology, we were delighted to partner with Lumen Research to put high impact formats to the test. Attention has not yet been embraced as a standard metric within the platforms we use to measure quality of media, but that moment is coming fast.”

The study also underscores the fact that ads which demand attention keep it simple, and part of this is limiting the number of so-called ‘visual clusters’ – with four visual clusters the maximum number the brain can easily process. Individuals are less likely to recall a brand if overloaded, while emotional engagement is also reduced if there is too much clutter.

Mike Follett, Managing Director of Lumen, said: “We use eye-tracking technology to help brands measure, buy and amplify genuine attention to their marketing efforts. It’s also critical to consider how people are viewing content alongside advertising, and to align format with content, to ensure maximum engagement.”